‘The way we tend to use resources is we extract them, we turn them into short-life products and then dispose of them. Nature works very differently. In ecosystems, the waste from one organism becomes the nutrient for something else in that system.’  Michael Pawlyn

We consider waste as something that disappears when we dispose of it. It is taken away, treated, and never seen again. In reality efficient waste treatment is a long and complex process that requires heavy machinery and a substantial amount of energy. Although waste treatments such as composting and biogas production are returning some of this energy back to the environment, the reality is that there is still a large amount of untreated waste that is left for landfills.


Barcelona overall has a well designed and functional waste treatment system. As well as numerous recycling bins located within close proximity to almost every building in the center, there are also green points dotted around the city, which collect clothing, electronics, oils, ink cartridges, etc. Once collected, the waste is sent to sorting plants and then distributed to the appropriate waste management systems.


One particular type of waste became especially important to us ; E-waste. Electronic and electrical waste has to be specially treated and here in Barcelona is collected from the large green points and treated in private waste plants, where there is little to no information regarding the process in treating this waste.

On a global scale, the majority of E-waste from Western Europe and the US is left to the care of the less developed countries, particularly West Africa and Asia. Here it is treated by people with no equipment or protective clothing, that crush and burn the products in order to extract valuable raw materials such as copper, iron, silicon and gold.


Image courtesy of 



We want to change the concept of waste – Rather than our trash ending up in complex waste management system, which may eventually end up in landfills, we want to decentralise the process, allowing our waste to become the nutrients or feed for something else.


A  strip of Barcelona that starts from the mountains of Collserola to the Barceloneta beach is our site for exploration and prototyping. Using Smart Citizen, we were able to map and record relevant data that may determine where and what we will propose in our new system. 

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With reference to the stomach as a form of a digestion system, we recorded the different types of stomachs for different types of waste, and proposed a closed loop system integrated into the infrastructure of the city.

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Our aim is to restore nature within the city, bringing in new life and natural methods for waste treatment where eventually the city will be coming a living biodigester and nature as a receptor for human habitat. Blog_pg12

‘Supra Digester’ is a project of IaaC, Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia

developed at Design with Nature research line,  Master in Advanced Architecture 01  in 2016 by:

Students: Jose Javier Fernandez Ponce, Jessica Dias and Andre Resende

Faculty: Javier Peña, Rodrigo Rubio, and Oriol Carrasco